In 1967, Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of altering two aspects of the Constitution that related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Although these seemed like small amendments, they provided an impetus for real change – from terra nullius to land rights, and from assimilation to self-determination.
Nearly 50 years later, there is a groundswell of support for our indigenous heritage to be formally recognised in the Constitution. As we await the new referendum, Frank Brennan considers how far we’ve come, and yet how much work lies ahead. With fresh, detailed research, he examines the work of the Council of Aboriginal Affairs, the pivotal Gove land rights case, and the attitudes of successive governments towards recognising traditional ownership. He also reminds us of the significance of constitutional change, assessing how the coming referendum might lead governments and indigenous Australians to negotiate better outcomes.
Written by one of our most respected commentators on legal and human rights issues, No Small Change is a vital contribution to our understanding of indigenous affairs. It will generate crucial debate on how we should acknowledge our country’s history, and how this can make a difference to indigenous Australians today.